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Naked From The Neck Up

Naked From The Neck Up

So the other day I saw Wonder Woman. Or rather, not Wonder Woman, but someone who thought she was.

And it was horrible.

I shall explain. We had gone to the store to get something or other. I don’t recall what. Batteries, maybe. Dried milk. Coffee. Just the little purchases of a life in Covid.

She isn't helping...

While we were shopping, I had been pleased to see, that most of us…customers and clerks… were dutifully wearing our masks. We were all of us aware that we are in Texas, and that right now, Texas is in the midst of a real crisis. We re-opened too soon and as I write this ICUs are overburdened, morgues are overfull, refrigerated trucks handle the overflow of the dead.

Then I turned a corner and there she was. The woman. She was a young woman, in her thirties, maybe forty at most…attractive…well-dressed, shorts, short-sleeved shirt…very muscular. She was clearly an athlete. If she wasn’t professional, she was no stranger to the gym. And she had colorful tattoos. I could them seem twisting and serpentine on her arms and legs.

And she had no mask.

To give her her due, she saw me glance in her direction, and she had the good grace to look alarmed, as if she thought I might rebuke her. Which, of course, I would not have done. I am, alas, too much my mother’s son. Too much the gentleman to be confrontational. Though, if there ever was a confrontation needed, ’twas perhaps then.

Anyway, I walked past her and rejoined Martha. We went to the registers and then to the parking lot. We had parked a ways away, under a small tree, in a desperate attempt to find shade in the wet, heavy heat of a Texas summer. We reached my little truck. We unloaded our purchases. We turned. And there, across the lane, in a lot near ours, we saw another vehicle, a little Mercedes, no less. Not a new one. But not a relic, either.

What caught our attention, though, was that in the rear window there was a large, cardboard sign, hand written, somewhat crudely lettered. In the thick black ink of a magic marker there appeared a long and rambling message. I wish I had taken a picture of it, so that I could quote it exactly. But, I didn’t think to do so, and I’ll have to paraphrase. In brief, though, the sign was a manifesto written in the first person singular. “I refuse to wear a mask,” it began. “Just as I refuse vaccines.” It went on and on from there.

You Can't Fly Faster Than A Speeding Virus.

The issue wasn’t personal freedom as it might have been with the more common sorts of anti-maskers. Rather, it was health. Masks reduced oxygen to the brain. They weren’t natural. They caused damage of some ill-defined but nefarious kind.

And next to the sign was a cartoon window sticker…a decal showing Wonder Woman, flexing her biceps, all fury and defiance.

At which moment, of course, I knew whose car it was—the unmasked woman in the store. It could be no one else.

We hurried on our way. We had no wish to meet her. And besides, we’d bought ice cream. There was no sense in letting it melt in the heat.

But I did think about her, afterwards, as we drove home and later still at the house. It dawned on me that I had misunderstood something. I had assumed the anti-mask movement was largely monolithic. I thought it was made up only of the furious men and women I’ve seen in the news and on the web—the bearded men with firearms screaming into the faces of police officers in Michigan, the furious woman berating the young newswoman at the statehouse, the “Karen,” spitting on the clerk at the fast food chain.

But, no. Here was another aspect of the anti-mask movement. This one is, perhaps, more middle class, marginally less loud, and maybe, in its curious way, more intellectual and much more dangerous. It is twinned with the anti-vaccine movement, worships the words “natural” and “organic,” and is, in its way, quite ancient. This is the modern incarnation of the Noble Savage and Back-To-The-Land. It is Dr. John Kellogg’s Food Fascism and Bernarr Macfadden’s Body Beautiful. (If you’ve not heard of Kellogg and Macfadden, look them up. They are on Wikipedia.)

Nature Is Not Always Nice

It is the belief, not wholly unfounded, that modern life is full of toxins and terrors, while Mother Nature, in her unadorned splendor, is pure and kind. It is the vision of Eden, where the fruit is not forbidden, the waters of the Jordon are sparkling and clean, and air is one long refreshing Zephyr.

It is a beguiling vision. I will give it that. But…it is not true. The clear, clean water is full of bacteria. The fruits are not forbidden, but if unwashed, they may come with E. Coli. Nature may be pure and splendid, but she brings with her Covid and Anthrax and Ebola. And the fresh air may be, indeed, fresh…but right now you better breathe it through a mask.

Which is why, I suspect, that the woman in the store is actually more dangerous than the man screaming in the State House. She seems more sensible. Less violent. And therefore more likely to be, here and there, heard…

And that could be deadly. Like the anti-vaccine movement in general, it can sound…if not rational…at least not insane. But, in fact, it is madness, and could all too easily result in the deaths of millions.

Particularly children.

So what do we do about it? Alas, I do not know. But something must be done. Someone, somewhere…someone with more acumen than I, more persuasive, and with greater debate skills…must begin to fight back. Someone must craft a response to this kind of mental derangement, and make a business of responding to such people…on the web. In the media. In the world.

For the alternative is terrible. It is plague, and horror, and the triumph of death everlasting.

And…if that comes… not even Wonder Woman, with all her strength and innocence, will be able to save us.


A Real Superhero...

Just wear the damn mask, Okay?

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